nonprofit turnaroundWe all love a good story about an underdog who is able to turn around a seemingly impossible situation. It gives us hope that we can do it ourselves.

Here’s a story you’ll love.

Well, I wouldn’t exactly call Naomi Asher an underdog, but she’s a determined Executive Director who turned her organization around 180 degrees and went from disaster to dynamo.

In 2010, CASA of the Tennessee Heartland was facing some very serious issues. There was significant debt, the Board and staff were unengaged, and things were looking bleak. Fundraising was going backward instead of forward, and while everyone knew something needed to change, no one knew exactly how to break the status quo.

In July of that year, the Executive Director retired, and Naomi was promoted from Administrative Assistant to Executive Director of this small organization. She believed in the mission and was determined to turn things around.

“I told the Board when they hired me that we have to do whatever it takes to make this work,” Naomi told me. And of course, not everyone wanted to be part of that, so they lost some Board members. In fact, they got down to just a handful of people, but they were committed, and the group agreed to pull together.

They started by changing their mindset. Naomi had heard me speak a couple of times about finding the right donors, and she decided they would stop begging and start looking for ideal donors.

“We decided to respect that not everyone in the community would love us. So we just kept looking for the right people.”

They also kept looking for good people to add to their Board, and gradually grew it to the size it is today (12 members).

“We also started evaluating everything. We evaluated staff, we evaluated events, we evaluated everything we could to see how we could do it better or stop doing it. Our one big event had been declining for the past few years, so the Board and I decided that we would either stop doing it or do it really well. We changed a few things about it and doubled the income right away.”

In 2012, Naomi attended Get Fully Funded LIVE! and started using the Get Fully Funded System for annual fundraising. These tools, along with the Get Fully Funded Club, helped shore up her confidence and her skill in raising money. Add to that her sheer determination to succeed, and it was a recipe for success.

Because of the can-do attitude, the organization is now flourishing and has expanded its programs to serve more children. Staff retention is up, volunteers are happier, the Board is engaged, and best of all, the debt is gone plus there’s a substantial reserve in place.

How long did the turnaround take?

“It happened very fast. Since I had been the Admin for a while, I had lots of ideas about how I would do things different.”

Within just a year, Naomi had implemented many changes that have had long-lasting effects.

“With such a small Board, it was easier to move forward quickly.”

There were ultimately two keys to success in turning the organization around.

First was the comprehensive look at everything.

“We evaluated everything. We asked ourselves ‘How are we supposed to get better if we don’t know what we’re doing well and what we aren’t?’”

Second was the mindset shift.

“We stopped being desperate and begging. Now, we don’t beg. We give people the opportunity to get involved with us.”

Just to give you an idea of the size of CASA of the Tennessee Heartland, they recently celebrated their 25th year, they have a budget of $210,000, and have a staff of 8 with 4 interns.

You can learn more about CASA of the Tennessee Heartland at